MIKE Cortez doesn’t see himself as a messiah for Air21 but has vowed to give his “100 percent effort every game day” to his new team, a day after the one-on-one trade that sent rookie slotman Yousef Taha to Barangay Ginebra.
“I’ll just try to play and help these guys win,” the former La Salle star told Spin.ph before joining his first practice with the Express on Wednesday at the Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City.
I’m not gonna do anything magical, like you get to one team then I’m the new guy and I’ll have my way. I don’t think it’s gonna happen that way. But i still gonna work hard and fit in with these guys and hope to find my niche.”
The straight-up trade, approved by the Commissioner’s Office on Wednesday, saw the top pick overall of the 2003 rookie draft join his fifth team in a 10-year career as he reunites with his former coach in college, Franz Pumaren.
Cortez admitted he had braced himself for a trade ever since LA Tenorio arrived at the Ginebra camp in a blockbuster trade in the offseason.
“It’s always been a rumor ever since LA came over. Of course, I always have that feeling that anytime I can be traded. So I always try to stay ready … And it finally happened. It was a little surprising but not as much anymore,” said the six-foot point guard.
Although Cortez said he has no ill feelings toward Ginebra, he didn’t hide his unhappiness over his limited opportunities with the Kings this season while competing for minutes in a crowded backcourt with Tenorio and former MVP Jayjay Helterbrand.
The veteran point guard nicknamed “Cool Cat” averaged just 14.67 minutes, 3.5 points, 2.67 rebounds and 1.5 assists in seven games with Barangay Ginebra this season – all career-lows.
“At Ginebra I’m not getting the playing time I was happy with. Hopefully, with Air21, I get that chance. I’m not getting any younger. And I just feel I have that fire to play and I want to compete,” he added.
He is expected to step into the starting point guard slot at Air21, which has undergone a major revamp in the offseason that saw the arrival of KG Canaleta and John Wilson from Ginebra, Fil-Am big man Rob Reyes and Noy Baclao from Petron, and Bonbon Custodio from Alaska.
“Well at this point in my career, I’m not really looking into individual stats or anything like that. I’m 31 and I’ll be 32 in a couple of days. I just want to play,” he said.